Chinese Dessert Making

Author: Lovely Mehrotra

“For me, cooking is an expression of the land where you are and the culture of that place.”
-Wolfgang Puck

A visit to a new place, city or country is not complete without exploring and tasting the variety of cuisines and desserts the place has to offer. Trying different cuisines and desserts might be one way of truly experiencing the culture of a country, but imagine if you get a golden opportunity to learn and cook those authentic food items under the guidance of a well-known local chef of the city. Sounds exciting right?

One of the fun activities that Jinhua Homestay Program organized was a Chinese dessert making class for its participants, where everyone got a wonderful chance to try their hand at preparing a simple and delicious dessert called the Double Happiness Pastry.

Preparing this dessert was super easy as just three main ingredients – glucose, flour and white sugar powder – along with little water and raisins were required.

One needs to mix all the main ingredients together by adding a little water and prepare the dough. Next, make sure that the dough has no lumps and that it is as fine as powder. Then add some raisins to it. Finally, the dough was put into a wooden dough press cookie maker and was pressed well to give it an attractive shape. Now the Double Happiness Pastry is then ready to be served.

From cute Doraemon pastries, to small little hearts, participants gave interesting shapes to their dough to make it eye-catching. This exciting experience of donning the chef hat and cooking a traditional Chinese dessert will surely be cherished by all the participants for rest of their life.

Experiences

The traditional dessert making was one of the best experiences I’ve had in the Jinhua homestay program. It was a fun activity and getting a chance to learn traditional happiness cakes gave me immense pleasure as it was a very simple recipe and also delicious one.
– Madhura, India

As a participant of 2017 Jinhua Homestay project I participate in various activity but amoung the best activity that I participate is Dessert making. When my volunteere give me clothes to wear for Desert making I was worried because it is my first time to make Chinese traditional food. Even it was my first time but for a corporation with my fellow participant Dustin Van Sloten it take us only fifteen minute to make delicious Chinese dessert.
– Nassor, Tanzania

As I began to mix and sift the flower and sugar together our eyes met from across the room. Just a moment was enough to know the kind of person she was. She walked over and i struck up the conversation. She smiled and laughed, even at the silly things i said. She then proceeded to help me form the little, Chinese pastries. They were sweet… just like she was. I’ll never forget that experience. The sweets still spike my blood sugar to this day, just like her smile once did.
– Brady, United States of America

Greenway Bicycle Tour

Author: Joyce Sng

In a village like Suoyuan, it will be miraculous to find a gym if you are thinking of keeping fit. The best alternative here is to do cycling – in the Greenway. The Greenway is a well-developed and maintained track provided for recreational activities. To promote the use of the Greenway and advocate for healthy living, the rental of e-bikes is available behind the Tourist Centre at Suoyuan Village for better facilitation.

The route along the Greenway is generally smooth, almost effortless except for a few uphill slopes that will require more acceleration. Apart from that, you can just relax but don’t forget to focus on your surroundings as well, as the view is the best part of the journey! If you are feeling tired, take a pit stop along the stream and snap pictures of the magnificent floating lotuses. Also, taking in consideration of the weather, it is recommended best to go early in the morning before the afternoon sun strikes. However, if you want to escape from those strong rays in the afternoon, wandering into the small lanes of the neighborhood villages may be a preferred choice.

TNT group photo. Source: Claire Chen

Experiences

I’m a keen cyclist back home in Suzhou, so I’d love to bring my bike down to Suoyuan and explore more of the cycle paths around the area! The greenway around Suoyuan is a really lovely place to cycle. It connects Suoyuan with other villages around the area and it was wonderful to visit these. On the large river that we cycled past there were many species birds, which was a very nice sight.
– Tess, Britain

Cooking Competition

Author: Dustin Van Sloten

Suoyuan Village was the place to be on July 6 if you loved food, especially Chinese food. A cooking competition/festival was held in the village and it was simply spectacular. Professional chefs from the region showed off their culinary prowess and took part in a competition to see who was the “master chef”.

Judge reaching for food. Source: Dustin Van Sloten

I was fortunate enough to be a judge for the food competition. The food these chefs brought out was quite amazing. The plates kept coming and coming, and I excitingly kept grabbing and grabbing. There were amazing meats, vegetables, and desserts that were delightful to my eye and my palate.

Fatty pork dish. Source: Vicki Hung

Cooking is also an art which makes visual presentation a big key in determining the winner.  These chefs took pride in their work and it showed in the results. I came in a little worried about the different things I would eat, but I came out wanting more. It was a truly enjoyable experience and I learned a lot about food and presentation.

Calligraphy

Author: Joyce Sng

One can never miss a calligraphy lesson when in China. We had the opportunity to learn from a calligraphy professor, Mr. Wu (吴战堡) on the history and evolution of the Chinese characters. The practice of calligraphy runs deep in the Chinese culture and is deemed important in their art scene. The beauty of calligraphy lies within the precision and meaning in strokes.

During our session, Mr Wu. (吴战堡) demonstrated great passion and enthusiasm towards his work of art which influenced positive attitude from participants.

After a comprehensive lecture, we finally started working on our creation. Even though it was tough for many – considering it their first time, the participants still had an unforgettable time!

Malin practicing calligraphy. Source: Dustin Van Sloten

Experiences

During our three weeks here in Suoyuan 锁园村, we were given the chance to experience a little of this Chinese tradition. At the start, we were informed of the beginnings of Chinese writings and how they have evolved over the years, all the way from forms that many of us would not recognize as pictures, to forms which some may not be able to recognize as anything but scribbles, up to the elegant style which the Chinese currently call their language.

I found it interesting to discover the interworking pieces of each character; for example, the character for the word “forever” (永 yöng ) has all eight aspects for writing characters: a dot, a short horizontal line with a bulb at the end, a long straight vertical line, a small hook, a slightly longer horizontal line, a stroke coming down and out to the left, another horizontal stroke coming in from the right at an angle, and lastly a slow smooth stroke coming down and out to the right. It’s a beautiful thing when the character finally comes together, everything in its place and in balance. I feel Chinese calligraphy is a beautiful art form that takes time and patience to master. And, Master Li exhibited his expertise when he revealed some of his personal works. I was grateful for such a highly regarded master and well cultured gentleman to be teaching us just a bit of his knowledge. – David, United States of America

 

Through this calligraphy lecture I learned how to write the words and i also got know their meaning. This was my first day of learning Chinese and i must say that it has given me a wonderful experience.
– Gauri, India

Folk Culture Traditions

Author: Shivani Talati

The best way to know a culture is by experiencing their folk traditions. For a country as large as China it can take a whole lifetime to know and experience their culture, but through excellent arrangements and planning this program provides with everything a person would want to know about China and its folklore. This program arranges a variety of folklore activities like tea making, paper cutting, shoe weaving, flower arrangement, grinding tofu, calligraphy, Wu opera and much more.

If you are a fan of tea drinking China is heaven for you, the masters will give you detailed information about the types of tea and also show you the Chinese etiquette one must observe in making of the tea.

Thabile participating at a tea ceremony. Source: Vicki Hung

The flower arrangement activity may look very simple but once you sit to make it you will understand about how imagination and observance of small details can produce beautiful results.

A flower arrangement. Source: Vicki Hung

You will be grinding tofu using the traditional way which requires some muscular strength but it’s still fun to know how the delicious tofu you eat at your host family’s home is prepared. All these activities are conducted in its most traditional form and by the masters themselves. If you want to know the authentic Chinese culture this place is for you.

Wujing Boxing

Author: Dustin Van Sloten

In the Jinhua Homestay Program schedule, you can find martial arts written at 7:00 am nearly every morning. This may sound early to some, but for others (including myself) this was a great way to start the morning. It got people up, active, and perspiring. However in a strange way it was very peaceful and relaxing. Our instructor was an experienced master that patiently showed us the moves day after day. At first, it was very difficult, but by the end, it was clicking us. We even had the opportunity to show our skills during the final ceremony.

Chinese Martial Arts is the oldest in the world having existed prior to the 12th century. It include hundreds of different styles which makes it one of the most versatile martial arts. Specifically, we learned Wujing Boxing from our master. Wujing Boxing, which is about 200 years old, is a combination of inside and outside boxing. Every gesture and  motion is strong, vicious, flexible, yet its focus on defense. However turning moves into offensive gestures can be done easily.

Our master, Mr. Wang Shenjiang, has 57 years experience in Wujing Boxing. He was also a school teacher for many years. His passion and respect for the art combined with his teaching and Wujing boxing experience really helped us improve our skills throughout our time here. I felt honored to be a student under him.

Experiences

What I love most about Wujing Boxing is the feeling you get after waking up early and doing such a workout. Wujing Boxing is not a full-blown exercise, and yet one can still feel that he or she worked out. The joints feel warm and healthy, waking up early and getting the blood flowing! Another thing I love about Wujing Boxing is that there are so many varying styles. Some styles mimic the elegant ebb and flow of water, while others have the strong, fierce qualities of the Earth. Wujing Boxing often stresses that the breathing and other motions are in sync, further stressing the connection between mind and body.
– David, United States of America

 

I was 15 when I argued to learn a kind of martial art but never got a chance to do so. Who knew 6 years after I will be learning the Chinese martial art from a master themselves in China. It was surreal when I first entered the hall and met our master who though being 73 years old was way fitter than any of the students. The entire experience of learning the authentic martial art from the very creators with students from various countries is something I wish every individual has a chance to experience.
– Shivani, India